Monday, June 12, 2006


Morning came early today with the whimpering of Archie, who apparently is quite ill. Outside, Venus flickers above a bank of grey clouds as hooting of owls mingles with the trilling scales of some daytime, avian genius.

As for myself, I’m up again after three hours of sleep, waiting by our Italian Greyhound to clean up after him if need be and coddle him if he stirs with a groan. I’ll take him to the vet as soon as possible, although I’m still wavering whether or not to simply dash him off to the veterinary emergency room. For now, he is sleeping, curled behind me on a comforter that will need to be washed before the day is done. So, rather than disturb him with unfamiliar places and people prodding him, I’ll simply wait until he can see his usual vet. Archie certainly needs the rest. I do too; I’m already exhausted, but there’s no time for that.

None of this bodes well for the day’s writing, but I’ll keep on, hoping for an exquisitely long afternoon nap. After all, when I lived in San Francisco, there were a number of nights when I worked through the night as my wife slept a few feet away in our studio apartment. And given a real choice—bolstered by pecuniary stability—I would never have done that work. So, today, one would think, I can manage when the work is so very vital to me.


Now, as the day approaches its end, I realize that little writing has been done. My dog, however, had to be dropped off at the vet this morning so he could be given intravenous fluids and an antibiotic. I’ve spent the day wishing for sleep, but constantly driving to one corner of Cincinnati or another—all so that Archie could get treatment and food that won’t upset his belly so. I wonder if writing poetry isn’t a bit like that longed for sleep today. When I revise, at least, it is.

I spent today on the edge of sleep, just as a poem which I’ve worked on for a decent period of time spends days, perhaps even years, on the edge of completion. The goal of perfection, it seems to me, remains always on the horizon—always a mixed metaphor away from completion.


For me, poetry is a sequence of one abandonment after another. Each time I sit down with the goal of revising a poem, the end result is the same: I will walk away from my notebook or my computer—sometimes to continue with the business of life and sometimes to fall asleep on the sofa with the puppies—dissatisfied with the state of whatever poem had captured my attention for a few hours.

Later, I return, determined to make things right by the poem, but I realize this will never happen. Always, there is a phrase in a line that just doesn't sound quite right or there is a metaphor that reaches a tad too far in its comparison or there is a single detail marred by an imprecise word. Often enough, though I hesitate to admit it, I’ll stumble across an effect that doesn't seem to hinder the poem, but is beyond my understanding.


At this moment, I can, at long last find sleep. The puppies are tired after an exhausting day, and Michelle has just climbed the stairs to her bedroom. I could stay up, taking advantage of exhaustion’s peculiar knack for dredging up images and ideas that would otherwise be left unturned, but I’m satisfied with the day. After all, when my wife and I returned to the vet this evening to pick up Archie, his tail was wagging.


Post a Comment

<< Home